LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Harding Academy and Arkadelphia stand in each other’s way of a state championship appearance. In Searcy on Friday night the pair of 11-0 teams will face off in a 4A semifinal.

“You got two good teams that are going to go out and play their best football, whether they’re supposed to win on paper or they’re not,” Wildcats head coach Neil Evans said. “When the ball is teed up, all that stuff kind of goes away.”

“We made it to the semifinals last year and ended up getting beat by a very good Shiloh Christian team,” Badgers head coach Trey Schucker said. “We’d like to take that extra step this year.”

In their first season in the move up from 3A, Harding Academy is 2-4A conference champs and looking for their program’s fourth straight state title. 7-4A champion Arkadelphia tries to make the finals for the first time since earning back to back titles in 2017 and 2018.

In last week’s quarterfinals the Wildcats beat McGehee 29-20 while the Badgers defeated Rivercrest 48-13. 2nd-ranked Harding Academy has reloaded for another deep run with young talent whereas top-ranked Arkadelphia’s strong senior class is headlined by quarterback Donovan Whitten.

“On paper we’re not supposed to be where we’re at yet,” Evans said. “Moving up a class, graduating the best back in school history… Without those expectations allowed us to play, practice, and work from a different angle.”

“[Whitten] has thrown 41 touchdowns to just two interceptions,” Schucker said. “Very efficient, very good with his reads, and we have a lot of really good players around him to help that… We hope to put on a good game Friday and hopefully get back to War Memorial next week.”

Watch the full story to hear more thoughts from the coaches leading up to the highly anticipated semifinal. You can catch highlights of the game that night on FOX16.